Locke v. Davey
540 U.S. 714 (2004)

  • Washington State gave out college scholarships to worthy students.
    • The scholarships could be used to study anything the student wanted to study, except for theology.
      • Washington State was worried about violating the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
  • Davey qualified for a scholarship, but was declared ineligible because he wanted to study theology.
  • Davey sued Washington, claiming that the denial was unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
  • The Trial Court reversed. Davey appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that providing funding to students to study theology would violate the Establishment Clause.
  • The Appellate Court found for Davey. Washington appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the denial interfered with Davey’s constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found that Washington did not have to fund religious instruction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that not funding religious instruction was not an infringement on Davey’s right to free exercise of religion.
      • Washington didn’t do anything to prohibit religion, they just chose not to actively support it.
      • Davey was not put in a worse position because of the Washington law, he just was not placed in a better position.
    • The Court found that Washington State had a substantial State interest in not funding religious education, and that was good enough to be constitutional.
  • In a dissent it was argued that the Washington was discriminatory on its face, and thus must be subject to strict scrutiny review.
    • See Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (508 U.S. 520 (1993)).
  • In this case, the US Supreme Court tried to reconcile the Establishment Clause with the Free Exercise Clause. The basic rule is that the government is not allowed to do anything to actively hurt religious practice, but they cannot be required to do anything to actively help religious practice either.
    • Compare to Cutter v. Wilkinson (544 U.S. 709 (2005)), where the Court found that the government must actively make accommodations for prisoners to practice their religions. The difference is that people in prison are limited in their freedom, and so would be unable to practice if the government didn’t actively help them.